Is marketing wasting your money? The saga of buying aluminum foil roll.

Couple of days ago, I went to a large store to buy some groceries and other home stuff with my mom. We had a shopping list and I was hoping to finish the retail saga in about 15 minutes, but then, we stopped to buy aluminum foil for food storing. The shelf with aluminum foils had about 20 different products, about 5 different brands:  they were all the same, except that they had different length of foil roll and different price. It’s easy to find the cheapest, but hey, guess what, the cheapest is the shortest roll.  “This one is too short, it will go out in a week”, said my mom. Ok, take the longer one-right? There are 5 different brands of longer one, with significant difference in price. “This one?”, I took the cheapest 20m roll. “No, look, for a few bucks more, we can get 30 m roll”, my mom said. I took that one and put it in a cart. Just when I thought we’ve completed the mission of buying such a trivial thing, I saw cheaper 30m roll. I switched it and pushed the cart on, but hey, imagine that, for just a few bucks more, there was 40m foil. We lost patience, and we just took the last foil on the shelf. It was the longest and I think the most expensive one.  Product placement tip: just put your foil at the end of the shelf and your sales will rise just for the sake of shortage in human patience.

Later that day, I just thought of all the effort and money that companies like Fino put in positioning and promoting their brands.  Is it a waste? Do any of the marketing experts and psychologists ever go to a store and try to buy the product they are accounted for?  Are focus groups pointing out to the right conclusions?

What drives us to buy certain brands? Is it the price? Or brand loyalty? Promised quality? Lifestyle and self observing? Do we buy expensive clothes because they are better looking or more durable or more comfortable? Or are we feeling just a little bit more important than the others who don’t have those brands? Why people buy cigarettes even though they know how bad they are for their health and why do we mix energy drinks with alcohol when it is strictly said on the package that it could kick off our heart?

Go on, read the books about consumer behavior and purchase habits, how we choose and why we buy. I did it and according to those books, I would have bought the optimal aluminum foil roll: the one with the middle length and the middle price, but hey, guess what, have I got news for you… human brain does not work that way!

Stay tuned and some observations, explanations and theories might come a bit cleared. Welcome to the world of marketing 2, the one that tries to reach what really happens in human brain. I won’t use the word just yet, but I guess some of you already know what this blog will be about.


3 thoughts on “Is marketing wasting your money? The saga of buying aluminum foil roll.

  1. “What drives us to buy certain brands? Is it the price? Or brand loyalty? Promised quality?”
    By some point, I could answer you this and I believe you already know what I would say, so I won’t bother you defending the focus groups you’re angrily attacking, but to tell you the truth, I made my career out of it, so I find this post it a bit offensive. Sure I am 45 years old and I have about 10 more years to swim in the marketing sea, so, what do you propose as a miracle tool to do the marketing right?
    sinc, Leo

  2. The exccesive-choice effect (Iyengar and Lepper, 2000) describes how a person behaves when they are in the situation you mention: with a lot of products they consider very similar and difficult to figure out which is the best. I can tell you that the conclusion is not that you get the “optimal aluminum foil roll”. I don’t know which are those books about consumer behavior and purchase habits you have read, but definitely the ones I have read try to describe the reality rather than come up with make up theories with nothing to do with the real life, as you claim…As the previous comment, I find this post a bit offensive and in this particular extent, misleading.



  3. The point that you who have such a huge experience in marketing find this post offensive actually makes the purpose out of it, so thank you for your comments. Confusing enough, the great extent of options and choice that consumers have in year 2011 turns on the red light for smart producers. However, for lethargic ones, it means that they’ll just keep on swimming as it was 1985.
    This blog has its purpose to show the new options that neuroscience is opening in the coming years, rather than to discuss the literature, but since the question was brought up, the one example of the book that I put my belief into is
    Paco Underhill “Why we buy”.

    Kind regards and sincere thanks for your comments,

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